A Mindful Kitchen

When you eat “clean” do you think about all you can’t have?

Eating "clean" generally means clearing out the processed food in favour of whole foods. For some it means dumping dairy, gluten, eggs and sugar. I am no stranger to removing food groups. I have been gluten, dairy, and sugar free. I have tried vegetarian and vegan ways of eating. I have not stuck with just one way of eating for a long period of time, except for vegetarianism.

I love plant based eating!

I never really loved meat even as a kid, especially after my dad explained that the lamb on my plate was like the baby lamb I just saw on TV. I love to eat and create plant based foods, rich in flavour. However, I do choose a variety of (mostly) all kinds of foods, that work for me, at that specific time. Seasonal eating too, has many benefits. 

I have been in the "clean vs dirty" food camp. This concept varies by wild degrees of acceptable and unacceptable food. I have "dieted" from early high school right through my 40's, but this type of thinking set me up for some serious rollercoaster eating.  I hadn't connected to the real reasons I ate. I was always between the decision to be "bad" and eat EVERYTHING and the decision to be "good" and eat fish, asparagus and pump iron until sitting down on the toilet was practically impossible! 

It wasn't until I tuned into the root of my eating, that I began to loosen this concept in my brain.   Conscious choice, tuning into hunger and being aware while eating was such a simple concept for me to get hold of. Not always easy, in our modern day, go-go mentality, but for me, it became a lovely thing. 

A life-changing thing.

When I connect to the real reason I reach for food when not hungry,  food becomes a conscious choice. When I connect to the feelings behind the food, I am able to decide to eat to soothe a feeling, or choose another way to eel better. (We all emotionally eat, and it isn’t something to be constantly ashamed of)

When I choose something that may not meet the general consensus of what is “good for us”, it is just that. A choice. One I make consciously, so that I can savour and enjoy every drip of ice cream, every chip in my homemade chocolate chip cookie, mindfully and consciously. 

When we open our cupboards...

... we may be the person that has food that isn't supportive of proper nutrients or health. There's the obvious stuff: sugary cereal, cookies, chips, soda pop, candy and ice cream. You know, the treats, that the kids will complain about when you want to swap them out. There is the convenience stuff, like canned foods, crackers and sauces. Many people do well with the full on, clean out your pantry and throw everything away approach to start fresh. I have taken this approach many times. Notice I haven't just done it once? My all-or-nothing thinking did not change my relationship to the food I eat or crave. 

Being mindful has.

can you mindfully clean out the pantry?

Awareness

The first step in a mindful life is Awareness. Approaching anything with a bird's eye view of what we do helps us understand our habits better. We cannot change unless we have some awareness over what we do. My unconscious eating came from some unconscious shopping.

I mean, you've seen me! The rushed mom, eyes glazed over at the store, whipping things in my cart to just get dinner on the table after a work day. Stress takes over, and the path of least resistance kicks in. Having those "clean" ideals had me feeling guilt after serving a "not so clean" meal.

Adopting a non-judgemental voice while observing what you are doing and what you are feeling is a part of Mindfulness that can be applied to the grocery shop.

Slowness

Wouldn't it be freakin' awesome to have a mindful grocery experience? To walk into the store feeling centred, planned and able to resist temptation? You can, by applying the principles of Mindfulness to your store experience.

Taking a few breaths and slowing down my thoughts before entering a store, has helped this stress eater me make conscious choices at the grocery store.

I try to think of quality of my food most of the time. I believe in fun food and good (to me) food. One man’s kale is another mans kryptonite, right? Keep trying foods to find new tastes, textures and loves. With Mindful Eating, you may find that the cookie you thought you loved, really doesn’t taste so hot.

Some of the things I consciously choose to use less of: 

1. Canned foods. Many canned foods contain BPA (bisphenol A), in the lining of the can. Canned tuna and soup had higher levels in this food safety report (http://bit.ly/2LV7ce2). I choose to use less of these.  I can save money buying bags of organic berries, which work great in fruit salads, oatmeal or smoothies. Frozen veggies can be easily incorporated with some rice, meat or legumes for a simple meal. I soak dried beans over night, and cook them myself. I can easily freeze in measured amounts and to be used as needed.  The idea here was to shift in simple ways, without going into all-or-nothing mode. I have a few cans on hand. The choice to stress less over perfect eating is one I consciously make.

 

2. Jams and Jellies. This is a food that brings up deep emotions for me. My mom, my best friend’s mom, all made homemade jam. It gives me a feeling of care and nurture. I also find working in the kitchen de-stressing and meditative, so many things I make are a labour of true relaxation and love.  Many prepared jams and jellies are full of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS is a sweetener made from cornstarch. This added sweetener is found a lot of sweetened drinks, fruity yogurts, even some frozen meals. HFCS has been linked to health concerns, which I am not going to list here at the time of publishing this post. Look for brands that are fruit only. Getting rid of HFCS containing foods is a great mindful swap, without eliminating something in your kitchen. 

 

3. Crackers. This is another food item I have less of,  or have swapped brands for a different quality of cracker snacker. Seeds, dried fruits and nuts can be great snackables. If you're not allergic, these items get some fats in your daily food intake.

Lots of crackers contain things that aren't filling, such as sugar, salt and flour. The tough thing here is that nuts can't go to school. Sunflower butter can, and celery, or apples. Pumpkin seeds are an awesome snack for balancing the blood sugar swings and giving us some healthy fat, zinc, antioxidants (great for battling the inflammatory process) and magnesium.  

4. Food Judgement and Food Fun.  I have chosen to lessen my judgement around food. Contary to what others may think, I have not chosen to "let myself go" or "stopped caring about  my health and the health of my family". 

I just decided the mental space that all this obsessing was taking up wasn't worth it in my 50's. I let go. 

What are some fun foods for you? Chocolate milk? Hot chocolate? Buttered popcorn? Ice cream? Would these be things you can have fun making yourself, or could you support a whole food approach to these items?

In my house, the powdered hot chocolate became a bone of contention. I love using all types of beverages and alternatives for a cocoa based hot drink. My daughter does not. I choose to let it be. Soon she will be out navigating the world without me, and may still choose to have boxed hot chocolate. And she may not.

I'd rather I bond over a little fun and less rigidity than hone my control streak further.

Try the two simple ideas of awareness and slowness in your day, and at the store.

Sustainable change happens when you start simple, and small.

Do the best you can, with where you're at, in health and in life. 

As you see with the hot chocolate, I would be a liar if I said I never buy processed food. I am far from perfect. I restricted my child's food as far as "good and bad for you" at birth, and she became a sugar seeking missile once she got the taste of it, outside of my control. Nature vs nurture? 

Reading Dr. Christiane Northrup's book Mother-Daughter Wisdom, Creating a Legacy of Physical and Emotional Health, had me reflecting the messages I had given my daughter about food. The experience of seeing the mental and physical health decline early on in my mother, through my teen years, heightened my need for vigilance and control. Rooted in fear, I was determined not to pass on poor health to my daughter. So I controlled and restricted her sugar and junk fanatically. When Dr. Northrup describes how she asked her grown daughter what she thinks would have happened if her home life carried such restrictions (as my home did), her reply was, 

I would’ve developed serious issues. You simply cannot over control what a kid eats without creating major resistance.
— Dr. Christiane Northrup, Mother-Daughter Wisdom, Creating a Legacy of Physical and Emotional Health, page 375

Wow. 

So, even though my daughter is in late teens, I am practicing a less controlling and more mindful nature around food, and her health. Nature, or nurture, or both, have created enough resistance around food in her. I trust her inner wisdom will guide her, as she navigates the world, because I am seeing how control wasn't my best tool to use for her.

I just have to have some faith.

That, for me is a practice too.